27-31 July: Solo in Berry Springs

Author: Mrs A

Location: Berry Springs, Northern Territory


I found I am still capable of procrastinating when needing to do some work on the laptop. I did all sorts of things, like wash the car, wash the caravan, wash the roof of the caravan, clean out the kitchen drawers, defrost the freezer, even supermarket shopping…but eventually I needed to get sat down at the laptop and do the analysis I had promised myself. The good news is, that once I got stuck into it, I really enjoyed the work and reminded myself why it has been my lifelong career!

I decided to reward my good behaviour with a visit to Berry Springs Nature Park, after all, this is the reason the caravan park is here. It is just a ten minute drive away.It was blissfully peaceful on Monday afternoon, in stark comparison to Friday afternoon when I had cycled over to find it absolutely full – later finding out Friday was a public holiday in Darwin, which explains the crowds.Berry Springs consists of a series of pools, starting at the waterfall, fed by crystal clear springs. I enjoyed a nice shoulder massage as the water crashed over the rocks, before swimming along the creek to the main pool and lower pool. The pools are quite large and deep, ideal for swimming, kept topped up by a weir. Apparently below the weir is crocodile country, so I stayed clear from there!

There are plenty of native fish in the pools, clearly used to people swimming in their home.The water is a beautiful temperature.

Every day here is 32 degrees and sunny, sometimes a little patchy cloud lately, but fine weather. There is no rain expected at this time of year. This makes for some lovely sunsets – best enjoyed over a water view.Miss Tassie particularly enjoys the pontoon over the water – firstly because there are no canines around, but secondly I think it reminds her of our swimming pool at home. She usually likes to lie beside that, and has similar feelings about our local lake. I accompanied her each evening for our private sunset viewing.

Tuesday: The final day of July and also our final day in Berry Springs. It began early for me with a trip into Darwin for a haircut, to pick up Mr A’s repaired bike tyres and finally to collect Mark himself from the airport.I had a brief moment of blow-dried glamour down by the Darwin waterfront, before the humidity made any semblance of bounce drop and the breeze blew the last bits out. Why do hairdressers never believe me when I say their bouncy blow dry is unlikely to make it back to the car, let alone beyond the next 20 minutes?Mark arrived safe and sound after his long journey – a little frazzled having left his friends’ house in the UK 40 hours ago, and having travelled by three trains and three planes to finally reach this spot. Still, all flights had left and arrived to schedule so no complaints. All went as well as could be expected on his trip, and he really appreciates all the messages of condolence he has received.

After returning to the Zone and reuniting with Princess Tassie, we whisked ourselves off back to Berry Springs for a swim. I had purchased a floatation noodle for each of us this time, which made it a very relaxing hour, and just what the doctor ordered after such an arduous journey!

23-26 July: To Berry Springs and Darwin

Author: Mrs A

Location: Berry Springs, Northern Territory

Monday: It was a busy morning of packing up while Mr A took the Landcruiser into Katherine to get the wheel alignment checked (standard check post new shocks). Finally we took off up the highway, about a three hour drive to Berry Springs.

Berry Springs is a tiny rural settlement located about 60km south of Darwin. These days it is primarily a jumping off point for Litchfield National Park, Berry Springs Nature Park and the Territory Wildlife Park.

Our park is located beside Lake Barden, a horseshoe shaped lake designed specifically for waterskiing – no action here at the moment though, just lots of birds and a few crocodiles apparently (hopefully of the freshwater variety!).Checking in for 10 days, I believe we have one of the best sites in the park. Nice and shady, grassy with no neighbours for about 15 metres. Better still, we had barely set up when the campground managers came over with three boxes of wine – our Vinomofo and Ross Hill deliveries have made it safely. Sadly the Tscharke wine delivery made it in a leaking crumpled mess to the Berry Springs Post Office with just enough time for the courier to photograph it and then take it away again. Will we ever get to try this wine? Third time lucky we hope…

Tuesday: Mark finished off his packing and we loaded up the car with his case plus our poor punctured bike tyres to take them into Darwin. Forty-five minutes later we were pulling up outside Cycle Zone (we thought it was an appropriate name!) and dropping them off. It seems my bike is going to be a simple (if costly) fix, but Mr A`s Surly tyres will need a bit more thought.

We then went off to find lunch – TripAdvisor came to the rescue here, and we were soon calling into the Magic Wok Restaurant. There, we selected raw vegetables and meat from a selection (a wide variety including buffalo, crocodile, emu, kangaroo and other interesting choices), chose a sauce and a noodle or rice. You pay depending on the weight of your plates. We both decided on seafood laksa, which was outstanding.

Soon it was time to drop Mark to the airport for his flight to Perth and onward to the UK. I jumped in to the driver`s seat for the first time in a long while and drove on back to Berry Springs to chill out with my furry housemate.

Wednesday: for me a day of washing and working – doing analysis on some research I have conducted while travelling. Mid afternoon I got a message from Mark to say he had safely made it into London and was on the train travelling across the city. It all seemed so fast!

Miss Tassie did a little exploring, deciding the nearby lake is ideal for sunbathing.

Thursday: I received a message early to let me know my bike was ready to collect, so I decided to spend the morning writing my report and then head back into Darwin in the afternoon. Annoyingly our lovely new washing machine decided to start pumping out error codes, and I spent an hour trying to sort that out..not solved yet.

I drove into Darwin, relieved at the nice quiet roads and easy parking outside the bike shop. My tyres are now tubeless, so now hopefully no more punctures. I am really looking forward to jumping on my bike for an explore. Mark`s bike tyres are still in the workshop.

Given I was already in town, I decided to hang around and check out the Mindil Beach Sunset Markets. I last went to those when I was up here backpacking 19 years ago. Being a little early, I walked around the coast to the Museum and Art Gallery of Northern Territory, dipping my toes in the Timor Sea along the way.

The museum is well worth a visit. It not only covers the Northern Territory`s natural history (with an extensive collection of fossils and taxidermy), a display and recordings of Cyclone Tracey in the 1970s (which instill fear into anyone listening to the 200 mile an hour winds ripping apart the flimsy wood and corrugated iron homes), but also the history of settlement. It is this which is quite shocking when viewed through today`s eyes.In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the Northern Territory was quite a tough and unruly place to live. The climate is challenging to say the least, and settlers trying to grow crops were also stymied by poor soils, high temperatures and rainfall followed by drought. Aboriginal people largely carried on their usual life, with some being employed by pastoralists and hotel operators, and as stockmen, hunters and laborers.

In 1911 that all changed with several policies introduced as part of the`White Australia`goal. Aboriginal people were suddenly severely restricted in their movement, and it is at around this time children were removed from Aboriginal families and placed into missions, especially if they were of mixed decent. There was an assumption that Aboriginal people would simply `become extinct` while the children could be assimilated into white society – a shocking perception given what we know now about the continuous occupation of Australia by Aboriginal communities for up to 60,000 years. This policy continued right up until the 1970s.As you leave the museum and see young Aboriginal people sprawled drunk over the pavement, you see that it is now sadly alcohol addiction and a lack of sense of belonging which is killing them.

On to more cheery things…The Mindil Beach Market consists predominantly of food vendors, surrounded by jewellery, artwork and some clothing stalls. There is a good atmosphere with live music being played and plenty of visitors.I had an early dinner and purchased a raw gluten-free, dairy-free cake (Mark’s worst nightmare!) as a treat for dessert before returning to Berry Springs for the evening.